Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Poet Aline Soules Calls Carol Smallwood's Chapbook a "Universal Collection"

Visits and Passages by Carol Smallwood
Paperback:134 pages; 
Finishing Line Press (January 4, 2019) 
ISBN-10: 1635348005; $18.99
Available on Amazon

Reviewed by Aline Soules originally for B. Lynn Goodwin's WritersAdvice.com

         In Visits and Passages, Carol Smallwood not only writes in multiple formats (short stories, diaries, fantasy, poetry, and others), she offers her explorations of everything from the color pink to a letter to God. All come from the heart of American life. As Roland Barksdale-Hall notes: “Smallwood paints with delicate strokes a splendid cornucopia of lyrical ruminations on family, nature, literature and places.”  

         In her first piece, “A Visit from Caesar’s Wife”, Smallwood writes: “Avon made me feel a part of things: it was as American as McDonald’s, the Fourth of July, or the Reader’s Digest.” This sets the tone of the entire eclectic collection and the evolution of her world.

         In her memoir about a relative, she recalls Christmas in Poland where the table was set with hay under the tablecloth, the common shepherd who was fed in turn by each villager, the swing used by the whole village, and a beautiful brook where the author waded.  It’s a far cry from a family that grew flax, spun linen thread, and made cloth on a loom to the modern American woman who later writes a piece called Wendy’s where she read the Canterbury Tales over chili, a baked potato, and a senior Diet Pepsi, and observed tabloid headlines like “3500-Year-Old Mummy Gives Birth.” A woman who observes the humanity around her, wondering if a young teenage couple in line will turn into another couple with kids at a back table.

         Interspersed among the prose are poems of memoir and reflection. The poem, “A Lace Piece,” ponders the fragile beauty of lace, its history, its universality, its grace. In “Grandmother Said,” she mixes a memoir of her grandmother with the universality of sewing with needle and thread, possessions her grandmother obviously valued greatly as social objects that addressed loneliness. As Su Epstein notes: “A picture may paint a thousand words, but Carol Smallwood’s words paint a million images.” Mary Langer Thompson calls Smallwood “a keen observer collecting fragments that make up a life.”

        The author raises questions: “What is our definition of home?” she asks in “Home.” In “A Letter to God, Revised,” she asks, “Why such an odd world of 71% water, a round planet rotating around a boiling star with a moon also held by gravity?” She can question all she wants, but she still has to form an opinion. In her “Dear Diary” section, she lists essay topics for class, which are often questions in another form, for example, “The Importance (or Lack Thereof) of Knowing Why the Sky is Blue.”
  
        The author ends the collection with an epilogue, a poem called “Passage,” which she starts with “summer ice, pleasure of the moment: / proof of time’s passage” and ends with “evaporation could be measured / if there were days enough—/but ice has many forms.”  The momentary nature of time and the multiplicity of forms, whether of ice or passages, makes this a universal collection.


MORE ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Aline Soules, is the author of:
 "Evening Sun: a Widow's Journey" (chapbook), https://amzn.to/2OTFXVE and
"Meditation on Woman," https://amzn.to/2CHEhst

Lean more about her on her blog a http://alinesoules.com/blog or at Twitter (@aline_elisabeth). Her work has appeared in such publications as Literature of the Expanding Frontier, Kenyon ReviewHouston Literary Review, and Poetry Midwest.

visits-and-other-passages-carol-smallwood-book-review


MORE ABOUT THIS BLOG AND GETTING REVIEWS AND ANOTHER FREEBIE


 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is her most recent How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically (http://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews ) that covers 325 jam-packed pages covering everithing from Amazon vine to writing reviews for profit and promotion. Reviewers will have a special interest in the chapter on how to make reviewing pay, either as way to market their own books or as a career path--ethically!

This blog is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.



Note: Participating authors and their publishers may request the social sharing image by Carolyn Wilhelm at no charge.  Please contact the designer at:  cwilhelm (at) thewiseowlfactory (dot) com. Provide the name of the book being reviewed and--if an image or headshot of the author --isn't already part of the badge, include it as an attachment. Wilhelm will send you the badge to use in your own Internet marketing. Give Wilhelm the link to this post, too! 


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Editor Reviews LB Sedlacek New Poetry Book


Words and Bones
By LB Sedlacek
Published 2018
Finishing Line Press
Genre: Poetry
42 pages
ISBN-10:  1635346320
ISBN-13:  978-1635346329


Reviewed by Cristina M.R. Norcross

In L.B. Sedlacek’s collection, Words and Bones, we see the wonder of every day miracles presented to us using spare, but precise language, and imagery that opens up the sky and earth in unique ways. If we follow the thread of words in these engaging poems, we not only find our way out of the forest of life, we emerge with a deeper understanding of human connection, ways of seeing, and inner knowing. These are poems to be savored and sipped. These words and bones shed light on the mysterious world around us and skillfully offer a poetic guide map.


MORE ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Cristina M. R. Norcross, Editor of Blue Heron Review; author of Beauty in the Broken Places and other titles.



MORE ABOUT THE POET


L.B. Sedlacek’s poetry has appeared in publications such as "Pure Francis," "The Broad River Review," "The Broken Plate," "I-70 Review,"  "Third Wednesday," "Mastodon Dentist," "Big Pulp," and others.  Her latest poetry book, "The Architect of French Fries" was recently published by Presa Press.  She also teaches poetry at local elementary and middle schools, publishes a free resource for poets "The Poetry Market Ezine," and was a Poetry Editor for "ESC! Magazine."  In her free time, LB enjoys swimming, reading, and volunteering for her local humane society.  Find out more:  www.lbsedlacek.com


Subscribe to her newsletter at 
The Poetry Market Ezine

MORE ABOUT THIS BLOG
 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Professor Emeritus Reviews Smallwood's "In the Measuring"

 Title:  In the Measuring
Author: Carol Smallwood
Publisher:  Shanti Arts, 2018.  Brunswick, Maine:
116 pages, $14.95, paperback.
Available on Amazon

Reviewed by Ronald Prime originally for his Ragazine

It is often said that we cannot measure what is real, what actually counts or matters most. In The Measuring demonstrates that in the right hands we can do all that and more. For Carol Smallwood, we do not find meaning already made; rather, in the activities of our everyday lives we make meaning in ways that affect how we learn, store, remember, and pass on the truths of our experiences.

This collection of seventy-seven poems is packed with insights set in motion by an epigraph from Emily Dickinson: “The truth must dazzle gradually/ Or every man be blind.”  Smallwood is not the first to insist on this “dazzle,” but she is especially subtle in depicting the feel of the crucial gradualness. In so many different ways these poems reveal the gradation of steady and deliberate measurements in the ordinariness of our daily lives.  How measuring opens us up to mystery is the book’s organizing motif. “Proof of Transitory” looks at fading and blossoming, dusty shelves and unfulfilled resolve, and how we learn to negotiate the fine line between fading and progressing.  From the chemical reactions of making and breaking bread to the sifting through a myriad of dishwashing liquids on a grocery shelf, we face choices in every moment.  Some measurements seek us out: the feel of a waiting room after a diagnosis, the funeral-planning postcard that arrives “to resident” and thereby sidesteps the more threatening personal surveillance from the grim reaper. We also experience the information storage system woven into making  quilts, a driver in a car wash who is content to settle into “the tracks of those who went before,” measurements so subtle that we feel evaporation and the melting of ice.

Smallwood‘s presentation follows six sections with a precision that is never repetitive or overly rapid. A Prelude suggests that however we arrive at truth, there will always still be mystery in the measuring. “The Domestic” stirs  deeper into the ordinariness of rain and leaves, cooking and sewing, light pouring through a window to create shades of gray, efforts to “prove” what we assume we know for sure, discovering that the frustrating efforts to prove something only intensify the thirst for proof. “Sea Change” locates meaning in a shrug or a frown, takes a “Brief Look” at the sublimity of what is ordinary, finds Prufrock measuring his life with cups from fast food restaurants, and catches the subtlest signals missed by all except the most astute “sorters and watchers.” In the brilliant “Shopping Sestina Sans Meter” a shopper envisions everything in a supermarket from her imagined funeral procession at the dairy counter and turkeys in hiking boots, to  the perfect biscuits made by the Clabber Girl—all leading to yet another question of measuring: “How much knowing is good for us to know?”

Emily Dickinson (“Tell all the truth but tell it slant’) again provides the title for section four, “Slant,” which reminds readers that measurements must be somewhat circuitous as well as slow and deliberate to create meaning about time, the moon, clocks, tile floors, and the man who calms his wife’s worries about how she can ever list all her ailments. “You’re just supposed to circle things” he assures her.To be gradual, sometimes the dazzling must wander into productive distraction where the profundity of a philosophy class is interrupted by a train whistle that carries “Augustine, Wittgenstein, and the professor neatly away” (91).

Though most often thought of in cooking or construction and generally seen as an accumulation, in Smallwood’s steady hands, measuring is also an acceptance of necessary losses. Symbols of aging are big business with large print and assistive devices signaling a compromised independence (“Arrival, 59”). “Catching On” suggests that felt experience can be squashed by too much “talking out” and that measuring devices—scientific and otherwise—are always “still figuring out what to do with” the ubiquitous mysteries of every day. Again the shopping sestina surveys a restaurant grouping of “always the same men on the same stools” counting out the minutes they have left in talk firmly planted in shoes with “holes that gave them personality” (62).  The men reflect back on their lives and ask about the unknowables where even the sage “Know thyself can be a Medusa turn-to-stone blow” burdened with too much knowing (70).

Spend rewarding time with this book and you will find yourself discovering much that is new about what you thought you already had firmly in hand. “In Passing” concludes the volume with some dozen poems that measure “differences in what seems the same” (95), watches closely the processes unfolding in “a Happy Meal Cup of melting ice” (97), transports a bug from the post office floor to nurturing crumbs and to live again in the window plants of home. An “epilogue” creates an apt coda where we live and measure our lives in the halfway between the deepest oceans and the highest mountains.

Smallwood asks many times what all the measuring does for us anyway. Does it find explanations that are already there or create meanings through the often painstakingly slow dazzle of language? Is it all about keeping track of things, deciding how to store and share what we learn, and then struggling with uncertainty? The slow progression of gradations is discovery as well as an acceptance of loss. Blossoming is best in “the struggle of dandelions in sidewalk cracks” that brings more hope than “crowds of daffodils” (55). Here the literary allusions leap beyond Dickinson, calling upon Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality” and suggesting the title of Alice Walker’s very early book Revolutionary Petunias that push their way through inner-city cement.  We hail the annual coming of spring with its rite of passage but repress bugs and lawn mowing.  It’s all about loss, the measuring—not all accumulation as we hope—but learning to let go and accept diminishment.

Understanding the processes of measuring teaches being at peace with loss.  “Ephemera,” from the Greek meaning “living a day” flashes the fast dance of nurturing in which we ignite, mature, and die in an instant. In a measured way, aging is an arrival recognized when people hold doors and smile, when catalogs flood the mailbox, when “large numbered clocks and colorful canes” are offered in the hopes of prolonging independence (59). Yet another measuring of letting go is “A Multigated Acquisition” exploring a test of whether a heart is “strong enough for chemo” (54.) Other speakers reflect on whether—after a hysterectomy--one’s remains are packaged “in a paper sack like the gizzard, heart, liver, neck inside a roasting chicken” (62) and pursue the unanswerables when even “Know Thyself can be a Medusa turn-to-stone blow” where the knowing might not turn out to be knowing at all (70). Such questions might ordinarily be the province of the philosophers, but in this book they are better explored in the aisles of a grocery store, sitting in the light of a window sorting pieces for a quilt, while waiting for a dental hygienist, in every ordinary ritualized passage through changing seasons—all ways of measuring the extraordinary in ordinary places and moments to “explain the familiar so that I might understand” (102).

From section to section and within each poem, we are treated to intricate patterns of repetition found in everyday experiences. Some are like the musical refrains of the oral tradition or the contrapuntal wizardry of Bach; others use variations and inversions to capture multiple perspectives or introduce the rhythms of the blues. Smallwood is a master of forms whether it is villanelles floating variations that coalesce in a concluding couplet, the expected but still surprising repeated endwords of her sestinas, or lines sewed together seamlessly through successive stanzas where beginnings and conclusions meet in pantoums. The masterful wedding of mundane experiences and heightened awareness is found in “A Kroger Villanelle,” where a regal-feeling shopper passes in review objects on shelves “lined at attention,” her wobbling crown cautioning deliberateness in her step. As the shopping cart swerves through each aisle six times “she nodded and smiled” (110).

Live with this book for a while, quietly and thoughtfully, and you will be dazzled by seeing things as if for the first time. It will come over you, for example, that so much of what we assume has been decided opens up again because of “mystery in the measuring” (“One Way,” 25). You will notice the worn-out elastic, the “almost invisible 3-corner tear,” and how a white apron “must’ve gotten untied” in “Raggedy Ann” (41). Of course we like measurements assumed to be exact and undisputable, sometimes even declared true by definition. But do we truly know for sure what day we are living in with the help of a calendar, a dated email message, when the garbage is picked up, or an electronic sign on a bank? And how do we determine which metric might have gotten it wrong or—when they conflict, how to decide on accuracy (“Proof,”44)? Quilt making is all about measuring: selecting, cutting, matching, planning for counterpoint, storing memories. Can the drive to measure go too far; do quilts have to have purpose and be made to live with certain people, or after we are gone will their final measurement be “ending up in the night pyre” (“Sewing by Day,” 46). As part of elevator talk about how busy we all are, a  know what is what or the meaning of either “is” (“What Does it Mean,”51). Do we quantify maybe overmuch sometimes as when a customer wonders “how many sperms died not reaching the egg” that formed the cashier who was a “Fred Astaire with bills” (“Sorters and Watchers” 69).  All the measuring in the world brings us back to a wholeness; we avoid overreliance on measured analysis by learning that “it’s wise to detect differences in what seems the same” (Seeing the Whole.” 95).

In the Measuring will remind you of the strengths and limitations of every device we use to capture lived experience. Smallwood is at home in a wide variety of forms and styles. She is meticulous about modifying forms for special uses, and matches them unobtrusively to content they were made for. The organization of the book will serve as a guide but never get in the way or overcomplicate. Cover and interior design by Shanti Arts Designs are gorgeous reminders of the process explored everywhere in the book. Layout, design, font, and spacing are pleasing, with plenty of white space for readers who annotate as they read. In a few places really short poems positioned at the top of a page might seem abrupt to some. I would have liked a few more glimpses of the author’s ways of composing or motivations for the project in an overly short but otherwise effective Introduction. The Foreword by Foster Neill, founder of The Michigan Poet, welcomes us to ways of enjoying the surprises in the wisdom a keen poet has created for us.

MORE ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Ronald Primeau is Professor of English Emeritus at Central Michigan University.


Reviewed by Ronald Prime originally for his Ragazine


MORE ABOUT THIS BLOG AND GETTING REVIEWS AND ANOTHER FREEBIE


 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is her most recent How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically (http://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews ) that covers 325 jam-packed pages covering everything from Amazon vine to writing reviews for profit and promotion. Reviewers will have a special interest in the chapter on how to make reviewing pay, either as way to market their own books or as a career path--ethically!

This blog is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.


Note: Participating authors and their publishers may request the social sharing image by Carolyn Wilhelm at no charge.  Please contact the designer at:  cwilhelm (at) thewiseowlfactory (dot) com. Provide the name of the book being reviewed and--if an image or headshot of the author --isn't already part of the badge, include it as an attachment. Wilhelm will send you the badge to use in your own Internet marketing. Give Wilhelm the link to this post, too! 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Poet Judith Skillman Reviews Carol Smallwood's "In the Measuring"





Title: In the Measuring
by Carol Smallwood
Publisher: Shanti Arts
August 2018, Paperback:120 pages, 
ISBN: 978-1-947067-38-7
$17.00

Reviewed by Judith Skillman, originally for Compulsive Reader

Carol Smallwood’s language is exuberant as she threads themes of childhood, adolescence, maturity, aging, and mortality through the seventy-seven poems of her new collection, In the Measuring. Using free verse as well as formal, she examines seasons, myths, childhood, nature, and the plethora of experiences we encounter in everyday life.

Mysteries arise for Smallwood as she examines the ordinary. Under her microscope, something as everyday as a carwash changes suddenly to a cornfield: “Driving home, the corn that’d emerged in spring in such/straight emerald lines paraded in crumpled gold.” (“Today,” p. 34). Here, memory illuminates a landscape one generally equates with winter: “…–it was windy,/bags and newspapers flying the streets.” Through her wielding of the microscopic lens, a stray moment of recall provides not only a blast of color, but also a dose of nostalgia.

The saying goes: “the devil is in the details”; for Smallwood, however, one may say “the angel is in the details”. Whether it is a person, a landscape or a thing, concrete images accrue and become more than the sum of their parts. 

For instance, in “Falling Leaves” (p. 36), the change of season from summer to fall creates nuances of feeling—in this case, of exile—which are echoed by new developments that have sprung up in a familiar locale. We have experienced this in contemporary life; it’s become normative and expected. For the witness in this poem, the tree losing its leaves becomes a metaphor for abrupt and continual change:

Nearby stands one tree
with fallen leaves crumpled
by sea change without
having seen the sea

Bringing the sea inland and giving the tree permission to “be” sensory without anthropomorphizing it is an angelic act, given the harsh details that “swirl” through this short piece.

The aforementioned exuberance comes with the author’s novel treatment of the everyday—those ordinary, mundane tasks and chores we take for granted. Who would think to write a pantoum about dishwashing liquid? Yet Smallwood carries it off, and braids colloquial language with scientific. She assumes a persona the reader can identify with:

There are so many on the shelves but had to select one —
antibacterial, concentrated, degreaser, biodegradable:
how bad were phosphates (what did they do) in the long run?
Surely an experienced housekeeper should be capable.(“A Dishwashing Liquid Pantoum”)

In addition to glancing aslant at a world overfull with choices,In the Measuringreveals the journey of an open-minded life-long learner and an ironic soul, one who wanders lightly through days and years. The line of questioning follows an all too familiar path we all tread—that of the mortal whose days and years are numbered. Through many modes of assessment, and myriad daily problems to be solved (even the mundane filling out of a questionnaire at the dentist (“Waiting for the Dental  Hygienist” p. 84) standard communications become wholly inadequate.

As the adventure unfolds, this explorer searching for a way to properly interpret, label, and explain the world in scientific terms learns lessons she passes on to the reader:

How much knowing is good for us to know?
Venus, the admired morning star, is a sulfuric hell.
Know Thyself can be a Medusa turn-to-stone blow:…(“Knowing”, 70)

When examining the role of childhood myths, from Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, to the Wizard of Oz, Smallwood waxes feminist: “Sleeping Beauty/was awakened by the prince./What would’ve happened if/she hadn’t been a beauty?” (79)

The overwhelming amount of information that must be processed more and more quickly in our contemporary world cannot be reduced—that is no longer an option. Reading Smallwood, however, is not only possible but advisable. She herself is an avid reader. Perhaps the best we can do to insulate ourselves from the inevitable intrusion of overload is to opt in to one of Smallwood’s worlds. An ideal example can be found in one of her vignettes, a four-line poem emblematic of the whole:

I’m a child again
wanting to read
darkened tree bark
like Braille (“On Days of Slow Rain”, 96)

As a wanderer, this female Don Quixote struggles until, as a compulsive searcher, she finds a way to lower the bar and arrive at home under her own terms. That is, she comes to grips with the impossibility of finding a proper answer to unanswerable questions. She turns from shadows cast by inanimate objects to actual living things, even if those things must be  bugs:

 “The Bug”/ “was on the post office floor so put it in my purse:…” (p. 100). 

What a surprising move.

The persona then goes on to describe what this insect liked: “…Subway lettuce, drops of coke in the car;”—and brings the bug round to another angelic moment: “It had survived countless species long extinct–/and if we wait, we may see the Spring”. Spring is capitalized intentionally here, for it is a Spring where the reader, who, we learn, lives between worlds (“I Read that Between,” 113) can hold winter and summer, and therefore light and darkness, at once.


MORE ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Judith Skillman’s recent books are Premise of Light, Tebot Bach; and Came Home to Winter, Deerbrook Editions. She is the recipient of grants from Artist Trust and from the Academy of American Poets. Her work has appeared in Shenandoah, Poetry, Cimarron Review, The Southern Review, and other journals. Visit www.judithskillman.com

Poet Judith Skillman Reviews Carol Smallwood's "In the Measuring"


MORE ABOUT THIS BLOG AND GETTING REVIEWS

 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is her most recent How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically (http://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews ) that covers 325 jam-packed pages covering everithing from Amazon vine to writing reviews for profit and promotion. Reviewers will have a special interest in the chapter on how to make reviewing pay, either as way to market their own books or as a career path--ethically!

This blog is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Author Jendi Reiter Reviews The Poet Spiel's "Pictures and Words"


Author: Tom Taylor a/k/a The Poet Spiel
Title: Revealing Self in Pictures and Words
Genre: Poetry, Memoir, Art Book
ISBN-13: 978-1979893695
Reviewer: Jendi Reiter
Publication: Reiter's Block

Reviewed by Jendi Reiter originally for her blog at JendiReiter.com


Visual artist Tom Taylor, a/k/a The Poet Spiel, is a creator of varied personae, with a 66-year career spanning genres from graphic design to mixed-media collage and installation art, poetry, and now memoir. His new book, Revealing Self in Pictures and Words, is an impressionistic retrospective of his personal journey and the dramatic shifts in his style and materials over the decades.

Boldly colored reproductions of his artwork are interspersed with vignettes, aphorisms, dreamlike or nightmarish memories, and previously published poems reformatted as prose paragraphs. These written sections are set off in quotation marks, like tantalizing snippets of an overheard conversation, and formatted in a multi-hued script that creates the impression of an artist’s journal. (This font was admittedly a challenge to read in large amounts, but the necessity of slowing down may have helped me absorb more of the meaning.) Instead of traditional narrative transitions, third-person summaries of the action, in a more businesslike sans-serif font, serve as occasional signposts to situate the samples of his creative work within the chronology of his life and travels.

And what a life: Born in 1941, Spiel was a maverick from the start. He grew up on a Colorado farm on the Great Plains, a repressive environment for a gay artistic boy with migraines and manic-depressive tendencies. The early pages of his book speak candidly, in intense and hallucinatory flashbacks seared with humor, about the burden of his mother’s mental illness and her violation of his intimate boundaries. His bond with animals and nature kept his soul alive, a connection he would later channel into successful commercial posters and landscape paintings of wildlife, inspired by his travels in Zambia.

In the 1990s his work took a surreal and expressionist turn, protesting social conformity and war. His life as a gay man in America has given him an outsider perspective on the hypocrisy of conventional mores, and a rage against the stifling of his authentic life force. These themes show up in his raw, satirical, unpretentious poems. Revealing Self invites the reader to experience Rimbaud’s maxim that “A Poet makes himself a visionary through a long, boundless, and systematized disorganization of all the senses.”

MORE ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Jendi Reiter is the author of the novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press), a

Rainbow Award winner, Book Excellence Award, and National Indie Excellence Award finalist. 
See the book trailer at http://bit.ly/twonaturestrailer. The Midwest Book Review says, "Intense revelations about what it means to be both Christian and gay...a powerful saga."  She is Editor of WinningWriters.com , a Writer's Digest "101 Best Websites for Writers." 
"Things are not what they appear to be: nor are they otherwise." ~Surangama Sutra



MORE ABOUT THIS BLOG AND GETTING REVIEWS

 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is her most recent How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically (http://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews ) that covers 325 jam-packed pages covering everithing from Amazon vine to writing reviews for profit and promotion. Reviewers will have a special interest in the chapter on how to make reviewing pay, either as way to market their own books or as a career path--ethically!

This blog is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Carol Smallwood's Poetry Gets Star Status from Literary Professionals


In Hubble’s Shadow
Carol Smallwood
Shanti Arts, 2017, Brunswick, Maine
98 pages
$14.95, paperback
Purchase on Amazon


Reviewed by Jennifer L. Dean

    The early 90s were exciting and troubling times—the Berlin wall came down, and the Iraq War began. A Gen Xer, this was the backdrop for my first year of college. When the Hubble Telescope launched into space in early 1990, sending us brilliant images of a world we had heretofore only imagined, it surprised and delighted us, showing us just how small we were. For me, these bright photographs helped to offset the images of the loss of the Challenger, a loss many in my generation still remember as one of our first shared tragedies. In Hubble’s Shadow, a collection of poems by Carol Smallwood, evoked this rush of memories for this reader, simply with its title.

    These memories were not the only ones that flooded my senses as I read Smallwood’s poetry. I delighted in scenes seemingly inspired from my own rural upbringing—from an exploration of spring’s arrival in the changing landscape of a dirt road in the brief “An Ode to Mud,” or the remembrance of summer’s bounty in the even briefer “The Sugar Beet Field.” These poems delight the senses and inspire wonder and laughter. But, darker images reside here, too. Faithless friends and partners in “Dreams of Flying Sestina,” and health concerns in “Live with It” and “Kitty Doesn’t Explore” rear their heads, weaving their way into this tapestry of a life lived in contemplation of our world’s complexity, whether underfoot, overhead, or right in front of us.

Taken as a whole, this collection reflects the full round of life, with all of its questions, beauty, and pain. This volume is accessible to all readers, no matter their knowledge of poetry and poetic devices. Although this collection includes several longer-form works, the majority pull you in with their brevity and knock you out with their depth of feeling and the poet’s ability to bring the reader right to the heart of the story. This collection meets the reader where they are, with just enough detail to inspire the wonder with which the author so clearly perceives the world and her place in it. Or, as Smallwood writes so eloquently in the last line of “Wind in Trees”—“the story lies with the interpreter.”

MORE ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Jennifer L. Dean is the Dean of University Libraries and Instructional Technology, Instructional Design Studio, at University of Detroit Mercy Libraries. 

OTHER REVIEWS FOR "IN HUBBLE'S SHADOW"
Scarlet Leaf Review
https://www.scarletleafreview.com/nonfiction4
January 15, 2018

Michigan Quarterly Review 
http://www.michiganquarterlyreview.com/2017/05/a-review-of-carol-smallwoods-in-hubbles-shadow/
May 16, 2017



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